Friday, 27 February 2009
Caleb Warnock – DAILY HERALD
Looking to save green and be green, too, Utah Valley’s north sewer district has shipped tons of local human waste to Salt Lake Valley.
District managers are looking high and low for ways to compost Utah Valley’s humanure, as environmentalists call it, a cash crop that brings the district a much-needed half-million dollars a year. Problem is, as the district expands its facility — and tries to quell the odors that vex its neighbors, composting has been harder to do.
A new pilot project is letting local waste managers study a new composting method that takes half the time and emits much less odor. The results will be in next month, and if deemed a success, the North County district will spend up to $2 million to install the new method in Utah Valley.
The pilot is being conducted on a borrowed site in Salt Lake Valley already equipped with the necessary aeration system, said district official Kyle Cluff. When the pilot is complete, Salt Lake will keep the compost, rather than trucking it back to Utah Valley.
Composting kills several birds with one stone. The sewer district accepts green waste at no charge, which means weeds, tree branches, and even old wood from buildings don’t end up in the landfill. That saves space and landfill fees. The green waste is rough-chopped and added to the humanure. This saves the humanure — which district official Kyle Cluff calls “some of the most nutrient-rich material on earth” — from being dumped into the landfill, as it was for 21 days last year, at considerable expense to northern Utah Valley residents.
Heaped in a pile, the mixture of green waste and human waste is allowed to naturally heat to 131 degrees and then rot for 16 weeks, by which time it becomes a dark, rich compost that is the envy of every gardener — so much so that the district sells out of it every year.
The new method provides the same result in half the time. A concrete pad will be built, with an aeration system installed beneath it. Humanure and green waste are then piled on and covered with a $50,000 tarp. The combination of the forced air and tarp covering means the compost processes is completed in half the time and with much less odor, Cluff said.
So far this week, more than a dozen tests have been done to measure the odor of the compost under the tarp compared to the odor above the tarp. The results are expected to prove that the district’s investment in the new technology will produce compost with far less odor.
While paying up to $2 million up front to install the new composting method may seem steep, “over 20 years it would be a third of the cost of hauling it to a landfill,” said district manager Jon Adams. “And composting it is reusing it too.”
The district makes mountains of compost — about 30,000 cubic yards each year — and sells it all to gardeners at $20 for a cubic yard, which is about 600 pounds and fills the back of a lightweight truck. The compost brings in about $500,000 annually, helping keep down the sewer fees charged to North County residents.
Compost can be purchased at the sewer district, 6400 N. 5050 West in Utah County, west of Pleasant Grove Exit 275 on I-15. Compost is not bagged, and purchasers must have a truck. For information, call (801) 756-5231.
About the images: (taken by Ashley Franscell/Daily Herald)
Jason Bouey of Managed Organics Recycling in California fills a bag of odor as steam rises from a pile of humanure from the Timpanogos Special Service District Thursday, February 26, 2009 at Central Valley composting in Salt Lake City. It was the 16th test since the humanure was taken to Salt Lake City last Thursday, February 19, 2009. There will be eight more tests in the next three weeks before the pile is turned. Timpanogos Special Service District is testing a special tarp which covers the humanure and keeps the odor from dissipating into the air.